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Protesters target Belgium meetings

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Anti-globalisation protesters are to target meetings of European leaders in Belgium over the next six months, Reuters has reported.

The International Resistance group said meetings of European Union leaders in Belgium -- which takes over the EU presidency in July -- would be targeted for peaceful protests.

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Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has vowed to bring in tight security following violence at the EU summit in Sweden at the weekend.

International Resistance, said on its web site on Tuesday: "We want to build up a strong movement to protest against the EU summits in the second half of 2001.

"Top ministers and top officials from Europe will come to Belgium to discuss how they can further downgrade our rights."

Dagmar Walgraeve, a spokeswoman for International Resistance, said she expects some 40,000 people to march against the EU summit to be held in Laeken, near Brussels, in December.

"If we get the support of the unions, that could a lot more," she told Reuters.

Walgraeve said International Resistance opposed violence, adding:"The big difference is that the Belgian police know how to deal with large demonstrations and events. That was not the case in Sweden.

"The only thing that is really efficient is to mobilise on a massive scale. The only strength we possess is to make sure that a lot of people turn up," Walgraeve added. "That has a lot more effect than a small minority throwing rocks."

Meanwhile, Italy's new interior minister on Tuesday promised tight security for the July 20-22 Group of Eight summit in Genoa, The Associated Press reported.

Interior Minister Claudio Scajola met for several hours Tuesday with local officials from the Genoa area to discuss summit security. In a statement Scajola promised tight security and said soldiers would be deployed in the port city along with a large force of police. He said special zones would be established for demonstrations.

Scajola said the ministry would also hold talks with coordinators of the anti-globalisation forces.

A group called Globalise Resistance said on its Web site on Tuesday that around 100,000 protesters were expected to converge on Genoa for the meeting.

It said it was arranging trains to take demonstrators from the UK to Italy.

Reuters on Tuesday reported that protesters who demonstrated at the European Union summit in Gothenburg had accused police of inciting violence in the city at the weekend.

According to Reuters, Guy Taylor, speaking at a news conference organised by Globalise Resistance, said: "You have to be clear on where the violence comes from.

"I am not going to condemn the bottle-throwers. ... You have to look at the reasons why people throw bottles."

Three people were shot and wounded during the protests and over 560 people were arrested.

John Shepherd, 19, said he was beaten by police, reported Reuters.

He said 16 riot police circled him on an empty street near the main city square.

"They took my shoes off and tied me up with my laces," he said, adding that he was hit in the face and back.

"After 40 minutes of lying on the ground, they carried me to the police van," he said.

Shepherd, a physics student at Imperial College in London, said he was held for an afternoon before being released.

"They chose to attack me because they did not like the way I looked," he said.

Officials in Genoa have said the city will remain "open" during the Group of Eight summit, but the Italian media is reporting that security officials are considering holding the talks aboard warships anchored in the city's harbour.

New Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said on Monday that the G8 summit should go ahead, but said measures should be put in place to neutralise "extremist" demonstrators.

Berlusconi has already criticised the decision of his predecessors to hold the summit in the old Italian port city.

There have been calls in Italy for the summit of the eight leading industrialised nations to be called off following the violence in Sweden.

Such demonstrations have dogged meetings of international leaders since the 1999 World Trade Organisation conference in Seattle.






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